paul m hanssen
THE BALANCE BETWEEN FAITH AND WORKS
Updated: Jan 13, 2020
THE BALANCE BETWEEN FAITH AND WORKS.
By Paul M Hanssen
I received a question from a sister in another state last week. She wanted to know where the perfecting work of God differs in our lives from that which we ourselves are called to do. Her question was, “Since all of our righteousness is as filthy rags and we are unable to add anything to our stature; and since God works the will and the do in us anyway; what part, if any, do we ourselves play in the growth and moving forward of our spiritual lives, since it seems that God does it all anyway?”
This is not an uncommon question, but it is a very misunderstood topic within the church today.
First, we must never forget that “all” Truth is divided into a perfect balance. Where there is light, there will always be darkness. Where there is joy, there is pain. Valleys only exist because there are mountains. Every part of the revelation of God is given in balance. Hence, His Word is to be rightly divided.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
Once you discover a portion of Truth, and when something is revealed to you from God’s Word concerning any matter, always remember that there will be an opposite side to that Truth. One of the reasons that so many go off track in their doctrine, is because they grasp only one side of Truth, and either ignore or deny the other side. A classic example of this is the unbalanced teaching on the matter of God’s grace. Churches today teach grace in such a way that the followers feel justified to live life as they wish without even considering the laws of God. Grace has been portrayed as a “ticket to freedom”; unfortunately, the freedom is that of the self-life and the flesh. This is not only false, it is ungodly.
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; (Titus 2:11-12).
These two verses show us the balance of God’s grace. On one side, the grace of God brings us salvation, redemption, freedom from our past, and liberty from the guilt of sin. However, the other side of grace teaches us that we must deny the lusts of the world and live a spiritually sober, righteous, and godly life before Him in this present world. Grace is a wall of defense and a protection that surrounds the believer. But, the same wall that defends also restricts. To benefit from the protective power of the wall, one must also choose to live within the restrictions that the wall provides. To teach one side of the wall and not the other is simply heresy, and actually leads people into falsehood.
The example of grace is only one of all of the aspects of Truth. There is no Truth without balance. Everything that God created was given to be a visible demonstration and a witness of the invisible God.
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: (Romans 1:20)
All creation was made with balance; day and night, hot and cold, summer and winter, light and darkness, male and female and the list goes on. All of this was given to show us the nature of the invisible God. God is a God of balance. Without balance there is no life!
So, to the question at hand. God, indeed, has a role to play in bringing us, His people, to the fulfillment of His purpose. However, that’s one side. The other side is to recognize our own role. No one is going anywhere in their spiritual journey by sitting on a log by the road and stating “I believe”, or “I have faith”. Yet, a person can run and run, or work and work and get nowhere without faith, or without believing. The two, go hand in hand.
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:17-20).
Righteousness without faith is as filthy rags to God. But, righteousness that is worked in us through and by faith is glorious and life giving.
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. (James 2:21-24)
It would have been good and well for Abraham to simply say, “Okay God, I believe you will give me a son”, and then simply sit there until he died and never see God’s promise come into fruition. Faith alone accomplishes nothing. Abraham had to act on his faith. His actions alone did not produce the fulfillment of God’s promise. Rather, his faith in God’s promise drove him to action and the promise was fulfilled!
The choice that we have as believers is not only to have faith in what God says, but to actually act upon and according to our faith. This, then means that all of our deeds, actions, and service should be based and built on our faith in God.
God indeed works within us both the “will” and the “do” of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). However, God does not “do” what His “will” has worked in us. We, ourselves, are the “doers” of His will.
A living walk with God is both a walk and a life of action. Our actions must be a product of our faith. God’s Word is full of commands. He calls, directs, admonishes, and beckons according to His will and purpose. Responding to God takes faith. If your deeds are not actions of faith in response to God’s will, then they are dead works that are built on religion, tradition and law. But, if your actions are in faith to the will of God, they are works of righteousness. Works, performed according to the law, are dead and produce no righteousness. Righteousness, obtained by faith, is alive.
For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. (Romans 6:14-18)
Obedience unto righteousness is an act of faith in response to God’s will. You are the servants of the one you obey.
We see then the two sides of our walk with God. We must have faith in Him. But, we must also respond with acts of obedience to Him. One without the other is dead!